A methodical bomber gives Virgil Flowers a welcome chance to recover from his atypically bombastic last outing (Bad Blood, 2010, etc.).
Three days before his 70th birthday, billionaire Willard Pye and his board of directors are one room away from an explosion that rocks his boardroom outside Grand Rapids and kills Angela (Jelly) Brown, his executive assistant. Another blast follows with indecent haste, killing a construction superintendent at the site planned for a new PyeMart in Butternut Falls, Minn. The second bombing brings out the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in the person of Virgil Flowers, who assures the disgruntled Pye that he expects to clear the case within a week. “One week and I kiss his ass,” Pye tells Marie Chapman, his high-priced amanuensis. But a week doesn’t look like nearly long enough for a case this complex. Lots of townsfolk in Butternut Falls are against the new megastore. The Cold Stream Fishers, fearing that a pristine trout stream will be fouled, are especially militant. And Despite Pye’s denials, it looks as if a PyeMart expediter has bribed Mayor Geraldine Gore and at least three city councilmen into supporting the highly divisive project. Virgil networks, invites more than 100 locals to make up lists of potential bombers and wonders whether his faltering long-distance relationship with Warren Count Sheriff Lee Coakley is strong enough to keep him safe from Marie Chapman and other indigenous temptresses. The bomber, meanwhile, is moving ahead with a deep-laid plan, setting off one explosive device after another in order to make some kind of statement, mislead Virgil and cover his tracks.
The tale drags at times, but the mystification and detection are authentic and the solution surprisingly clever. Virgil fully deserves to have Willard Pye kiss his ass.